At our best, we are the party of individual rights, liberty, and limited government.
At our best, we are the party that actually believes in the original intent of the United States Constitution – including all ten amendments of the US Constitution.
At our best.
But the GOP isn’t always at “its best” – or, perhaps more accurately, politicians end up making compromises.
We had both on display this past week at the Capitol.
Senator Branden Peterson, Roger Chamberlain and Sean Nienow – three solid conservatives – co-authored Senate File 2466 with DFLers Bobby Joe Champion and Scott Dibble. The bill, if passed into law, would require law enforcement to have probable cause and a search warrant to locate and track peoples’ cell phones via GPS.
This is in line with the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution – which says we have an inalienable right, endowed us by our creators, to safety and security in our homes, papers and possessions, and that the burden is on the government to prove via due process that it has a compelling legal reason to need to do things like track our whereabouts.
And in a rare display of near-unanimity – and a rarer-still case of a useful bit of bipartisanship – the Senate voted for the bill 56-1 (see page 8233) – a vote that put Lyndon Carlson side by side with Roger Chamberlain, and Dave Osmek with Sandy Pappas, politically as well as alphabetically. The lions laid down with the sheep.
All but one.
Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, GOP from Alexandria, was the sole vote against the bill (see page 8232).
He’s been quoted saying “If you’re following the law, you have nothing to fear.” The quote – assuming it’s accurate and in-context – is an unfortunate one; in all the millions of pages of state and federal laws and regulations that exist, surely everyone is a criminal in one way or another these days. And even if that’s not the case? That’s just not the attitude a government that governs a free association of equals should ever view law enforcement.
I emailed Senator Ingebrigtsen for his side of the story. He responded very promptly, and I’ll carry his response in full:
There were already search warrants in place for this Law Enforcement function. This basically didn’t change much at all. Also this has nothing to do with pbone conversations between anybody. It is technology that aids the cops in locating a person registered to a specific phone. Again, no wireless tapping for voice. It would be used to locate abducted people, known offenders who are stupid enough to keep their cell phones on them after committing a serious crime. In defence of the bill, it does allow emergency personel to use if it’s determined a medical emergency or for lost kids.
So my vote was to not deter the possibility of other LE agency from wanting to obtain this very, what could be life or death, tool.
Again, LE has always dealt with evidence and how it is obtained with the search warrant process. Without this, they don’t have a case
I appreciate the response, and the answer. He’s right about a couple of points; it doesn’t cover tapping phone conversations (as some assert), and warrants already cover most telecommunications, officially.
I disagree with it, of course; while as Ingebrigtsen notes the law already calls for search warrants to tap phone calls (and their attendant GPS data), there are loopholes; SF2466 closes them. And as the NSA scandal shows us, the “official” legal stance doesn’t always govern how government actually handles its powers. That overreach was what this bill was intended to forfend, at the state level.
As far as finding children goes? I’m not sure if the law allows parents to consent to searches for their childrens’ phones without need for a warrant – perhaps my lawyer readers can sound off about that – but that would certainly be a statute most could support while still defending our Fourth Amendment rights. (And I can’t imagine a judge hedging on signing a search warrant for a missing child if a parent or guardian couldn’t be reached in an emergency).
So I understand and respect Senator Ingebrigtsen’s reasoning – but disagree with it strongly. And I’m happy that the GOP was able to lead this bipartisan effort that, in a dismal era for civil liberty, struck a tiny blow for the good guys.
That’d be “all of us citizens”.